Two top university officials — Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business, and Tim Curley, the athletic director — were charged with perjury and failure to report to authorities what they knew of the allegations, as required by state law. The Penn State board of trustees held an emergency meeting Sunday night, after which the university president, Graham B. Spanier, announced that Curley had asked to be placed on administrative leave while he fought the charges and that Schultz had resigned.
By MARK VIERA
Published: November 6, 2011
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — On Saturday, March 2, 2002, according to Pennsylvania prosecutors, a Penn State University graduate student went to visit Joe Paterno, the university’s football coach. He had a horrific story to tell: the night before, the graduate student had witnessed one of Paterno’s former coaches sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the football facility’s showers.
Paterno, according to the prosecutors, did not call the police. Instead, the next day, he had the university’s athletic director visit him at his home, a modest ranch house just off campus in State College. According to prosecutors, Paterno told the athletic director of the report regarding the former coach, Jerry Sandusky.
The authorities then say nothing about what, if anything, Paterno did in the subsequent days or weeks. They do not say whether he followed up on the allegation or whether he ever confronted Sandusky, a man who had worked for him for 32 years and who, even after retiring, had wide access to the university’s athletic facilities and students.
What prosecutors do contend in detail is that Sandusky went on to abuse at least one and perhaps any number of other young boys after Paterno and other senior officials at Penn State were told of an assault in 2002.
Sandusky, 67, was arrested Saturday and charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing children over 15 years, including his time as an assistant at Penn State. He was specifically accused of having assaulted the young boy in 2002. All the accusers were boys Sandusky had come to know through a charity he founded, the Second Mile, for disadvantaged children from troubled families.
On Sunday, Paterno issued a statement insisting that the graduate assistant had not told him of the extent of the sexual assault that he said he witnessed, only that he had seen something inappropriate involving Sandusky and the child.
“As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at the time, I referred the matter to university administrators,” Paterno said in the statement.
“I understand that people are upset and angry, but let’s be fair and let the legal process unfold,” Paterno said.
Paterno’s son Scott said in an interview Sunday that Paterno never spoke to Sandusky about the allegation, and that he never seriously pursued the question of whether any action had been taken by the university or any other authorities against Sandusky.
“From my imperfect recollection, once he referred it off, I do not believe he had a second conversation about it,” Scott Paterno said of his father and how he handled any follow-up on the allegation. He added: “The appropriate people were contacted by Joe. That was the chain of command. It was a retired employee and it falls under the university’s auspices, not the football auspices.”
The university’s athletic director, Tim Curley, and another senior administration official have been charged with lying to a grand jury about what they had been told about Sandusky’s conduct, and they are expected to surrender to the authorities Monday morning. Their lawyers have maintained they will be exonerated. Sandusky, through his lawyer, has maintained his innocence.
It appears prosecutors believe that Paterno, whatever his personal sense of obligation to inquire or act further, met his legal requirement in reporting the graduate student’s allegation to his direct superior, Curley.
Under state law, if a staff member at a school makes a report of possible sexual abuse of a child, it is the responsibility of “the person in charge of the school or institution” to make a report to the state’s Department of Public Welfare. According to prosecutors, neither Curley nor the president of Penn State, Graham B. Spanier, who had been told by Curley of the complaint against Sandusky, made such a report to child welfare authorities.
Of course, there was nothing preventing Paterno from doing more, and some sexual abuse experts and those who have represented young sex victims over the years have begun questioning why he did not take more immediate, aggressive action....
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